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Complete Guide to Roof Shapes, Pitches, & Styles

Table of Contents


Whether you’re looking to install a new roof or repair the one you currently have, it’s important to understand how customizable a roof can be. Roofs come in various shapes, styles, and pitches, and each can be effective in keeping you and your family safe while complementing the rest of your home.

If you’re looking to have a roofing job done on your home, be sure to consider the different pitches, shapes, and styles below.

Difference between a steep and low-slope roof

The overall design of your roof is dependent on many factors, including the slope or pitch of the roof. For both installation and repair jobs, the pitch needs to be taken into account. Some individuals may think all roofs are the same, but the truth is that every roof is designed differently to not only match the home’s aesthetic but to keep everyone in the building safe from the outside elements. Roofs can be designed with different slopes, including steep slopes and shallow or low slopes. In order to determine which one is best for you, it is recommended to calculate the roof pitch.

Calculating roof pitch

Calculating the roof pitch or the slope of the roof will allow you to determine what materials and methods are best for your roof repair or installation. A roof pitch shows how many inches the roof rises for every 12 inches. For example, if there is a 4-inch rise for every 12-inch run, this would be called a 4-in-12 pitch. This can be written in ratio or fraction form. The roof pitch is necessary to determine what materials and installation methods are needed to build the roof properly. This calculation can be difficult to figure out if you’re unsure how to do it.

Fortunately, this can be done on your own, but be sure to ask a roofing company to help if you’re unsure or unable to do it yourself. When calculating roof pitch, there are several different methods you can use to accurately determine the pitch.

One of the more common methods of measuring roof pitch is to climb to the top of your roof and measure the rise for a 12-inch run. This method requires a measuring tape or a level. While on the roof, measure the height from the level to the roof 12 inches away from where the level touches the roof. This length will be your rise, and if the number is six, for example, this will be a 6 in 12 pitch.

If you don’t want to climb on top of your roof for any reason, whether it’s safety concerns or the inability to, you can go into your attic to determine your roof pitch. In your attic, use a level and hold it steady and perpendicular to a rafter. Measure the distance from the level to the rafter 12 inches from where the level and rafter meet. You can do this from the underside of a rafter in your attic, or if you’d prefer to do this outside, you can use a rafter on the overhang at the bottom of your roof.

There is also a formula you can use to figure out your roof’s pitch if you already know the height and width of your roof. You can also do this with roof calculators online if you want to save time or confirm your answer. To calculate the pitch, divide the total width in inches in half. Divide that number by 12, as the pitch is the rise over a 12-inch run, to get the multiplier. Divide the rise, which is the height of the roof (up to the peak) in inches, by the multiplier. That number by 12 will be your roof’s pitch.

There’s no shame in asking a professional roofing company to help you calculate your roof pitch. Even if you’ve tried it yourself, if something seems off, or if you’re unsure if you’ve calculated your pitch correctly, a professional can make sure you’ve got the right value. Confirming the correct value is crucial for your roofing project, as the wrong pitch can lead to using improper materials or methods in building or repairing your roof.

Steep roof slopes

Most homeowners live under a steep-sloped roof, as this is the most common roof type for residential homes. Also, most common in steep-sloped homes is the use of asphalt shingles. Roofs can also be made using metal, natural tile, and other materials, but shingles are the most common and efficient material used.

One of the biggest advantages of a steep-slope roof is the free flow of water, snow, and other debris. These can all more easily flow off of your roof and into your gutters, preventing water damage to your roof. When water collects in one spot on your roof, it can result in significant damage that’s difficult and costly to fix. With a steep slope, you won’t have to worry about water sitting in one spot, and your roof will actually stay drier over time, which also prevents the growth of mold and mildew, keeping your roof healthier for longer.

The steeper the slope, the more attic space you’ll have, as well. A steep slope will be your best option if getting that extra space is important to you. That said, there are also some disadvantages of steep slope roofs.

Steep roofs are more difficult to navigate around, and if you need installation projects for a steep-slope roof, this will cost you more due to the size of your roof. Roof maintenance can generally be more challenging for steep-slope roofs. Additionally, this design is restricted to residential homes as the style isn’t effective or practical for commercial buildings. Maintenance can still be performed on buildings with steep roof slopes, but it’s recommended you be prepared to take extra precautions in case something requires repairs.

Low roof slopes

Low-slope roofs can be an effective design for buildings with a large amount of square footage to cover. Low roof slopes are also effective for certain home applications such as porches and decks.

One of the biggest advantages low-slope roofs have over steep roof slopes is their lower price and easy installation. Low-slope roofs don’t require rafter systems for support, and they also require fewer materials for framing. The need for fewer materials cuts down on labor costs as well. You may want to consider this style as an option if your home can handle a low-slope design.

While there will be less or no attic space in a low-slope roof, there is also less unused air space in your home that your HVAC system has to manage. Your building can still keep cool or warm without the need to also regulate your attic’s temperature. In place of an attic, you’ll have the ability to create a sun deck area or something similar on a low-slope roof.

Low-slope roofs have some disadvantages that must be considered as well. Shingles and tiles cannot be used on low roof slopes, as they are overlapping materials, which limits your options. Low-slope roofs are not recommended if you live in a snowy area, as a large accumulation of snow on your roof can cause significant damage. Lastly, flatter surfaces are more susceptible to leaks and other issues, which means that low-slope roofs require more maintenance than steep slope roofs.

Roofing estimates

A roofing estimate is the estimated price of the roofing project the client is requesting. The roofing estimate is calculated based on how many workers are needed for your project, how long the project will take, what materials are needed, and how much the employees are paid hourly. There are other factors you may also need to consider, such as transportation costs and special equipment.

A roofing estimate will tell you everything you need to know about your project. Every roofing company does their estimates differently — one might give you a handwritten, one-page summary while another may give you an official-looking document that spans pages. Either are fine as long as they contain the following information: project timeline, basic company information, proof of license and insurance, itemized costs, information about your roofing system’s components, and information about any warranties.

Estimates are important for roofing projects as this keeps everyone on the same page and helps you remember what costs are going to be involved in the project. When you speak with a roofing company about a potential project, be sure they take the time to walk you through the full estimate. This review is to ensure you know what you’ll be spending your hard-earned money on and lets you know exactly what the company will be doing for you.

The answer is ‘yes,’ if you’re wondering if a roof’s pitch affects the roofing estimates. The steeper your roof’s slope is, the more roofing materials, such as shingles, are needed to cover it. Your roof’s pitch will be a factor in the overall cost if you are looking to have a roofing company do the project for you. The materials you select will also influence your estimate, so if you’re looking to have a company perform a roofing project that stays within a budget, you might want to hold off on using clay tiles or other stylish roofing materials.

Roof shapes

It’s a good idea to get acquainted with all the different roof shapes available if you’re looking to build a new roof or make an addition to your home. A roof can take up almost half of the home’s exterior, depending on the design, and this heavily impacts your home’s curb appeal and overall design. Understanding which roof shape is best for you will help you boost your curb appeal, as well as keep everyone in the home safe.

Hip Roof

A hip roof contains four slopes that come together at the top, forming a ridge. The slopes can each be the same length allowing this roof style to fit a rectangular home. For homes with hip roofs, the roof is mostly visible when looking at your house. If you select a certain type and color of shingles for your roof, you can further boost your curb appeal and help your home shine.

Hip roof construction may seem complicated for some, but when done correctly, this design can withstand the outside elements for several years to come. These roofs are known for their stability due to their four-slope design. A hip roof is most likely going to be your best choice if you live in a generally windy location. This shape also prevents water and snow from accumulating in one spot, as these can flow freely off of the roof without trouble. Hip roofs allow gutters to be easily installed, preventing debris from piling up. This shape also allows for more storage space and ventilation.

Despite being the most popular choice of roof available, there are some disadvantages customers must be aware of before selecting this style. Depending on your home or building, a hip roof may be expensive to install. Also, because this style of roof has a bit more complex construction method than other roofs, such as gable roofs, they are more susceptible to failure.

Gable Roof

Another common and simple roof shape, gable roofs, uses two slopes that come together to form a triangle. This less expensive option is much easier to install and design. Water and other debris can flow off your roof without trouble, preventing major damage to your home.

When people look at common roof designs that are good for their budget, hip roof vs. gable roof often comes to mind. Both roofs have their advantages and disadvantages, but gable roofs have one con that must be considered. Gable roof homes, unfortunately, struggle against high winds, primarily for roofs that aren’t constructed properly. In high winds, too much overhang, which is the portion of the roof edge that sticks out beyond the house siding, could lead to significant damage, or it could be torn off entirely.

Gable roofs have their pros and cons, like other roof shapes, and the cons can be minimized or eliminated with the right construction. Just like other roof styles, gable roofs are required to be constructed properly to ensure no damage occurs. For larger residential homes, two of these roofs may need to be constructed in order to provide additional support and depth.

Flat Roof

This shape is arguably the simplest roof design that exists, and as you may expect, this roof is completely flat with a very small pitch to allow water to drain off, preventing water damage. Also called a low slope roof, flat roofs are commonly used for commercial buildings such as malls and other business buildings. These roofs are also a cost-effective option for some homes.

This roof shape comes with plenty of advantages over other designs, the primary one being the amount of space on top for a patio, garden, or sun deck. Flat roofs are also quite easy to construct and design, as this type is as simple as roof designs get. These roofs also provide enough space for solar panels, HVAC units, and any other equipment you may choose to store. In terms of flat roof materials that are most effective, most use membrane technology due to their thin width and versatility. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) membrane is the most common type of membrane used for flat roofs, and due to this material being white, it reflects heat rather than absorbs it, keeping you cool while on your roof.

While flat roofs can have a great number of advantages compared to other shapes, there is one major factor to consider before installing or repairing a flat roof. This roof shape is very susceptible to water leakage, requiring more repairs than other roof shapes. These roofs must be waterproofed with the appropriate material in order to prevent major issues from arising. The right roofing company can assist you with this to prevent any major damage to your business or home.

Gambrel Roof

A gambrel roof is most recognizable as the roof you see on a barn. This shape uses two sides, both with two slopes each. Both sides have one steep and one shallow slope and are easy to build and install. Gambrel designs are meant to maximize attic space in homes or create a taller loft area in barns and sheds. The sides of the roof are steep enough to allow rain, snow, and other debris to easily flow off, which minimizes any damage or issues from outdoor elements. While snow can still accumulate on the shallower slopes, the likelihood of it causing a collapse or anything similar is low, as most materials can withstand this.

Barn roofs are constructed in advance before being placed on top. You have plenty of customization options in terms of the materials and size you choose if you’re looking to implement a barn-style roof on your home. In fact, several gambrel roofs make use of windows to allow natural light into their home or building. Keep in mind that because of how steep these roofs can be, the roof will be clearly visible to anyone looking at your home. To boost your curb appeal, carefully consider what materials and designs you feel are best for your roof.

Just like other roof shapes, gambrel roofs have their disadvantages. This roof shape is expensive to manufacture and install, primarily due to the size of the roof itself and the gambrel truss or framework used to keep the roof intact. Also, gambrel roofs struggle against high winds and heavy snow, so if you live in an area known for either, this type of roof may not be the most suitable for you. Snow can pile up on the shallow portions of the roof, and in rare scenarios, this can cause a collapse.

Mansard Roof

If you’ve ever seen the Louvre Museum, you’ve also seen a mansard roof. Mansard roofs have two slopes on every side, but unlike gambrel roofs, these roofs have four sides, totaling eight slopes altogether. While you may mistake a mansard for a hip or gambrel roof since you’re on ground level, there is indeed a low pitch on all sides near the top.

When designed properly and used efficiently, mansard roofs can create a visually appealing look for your home. This style of roof was very popular in France during the Renaissance period before becoming popular in the United States shortly thereafter. This roof shape creates extra room for the attic, and if you want to create a livable space in your attic, this roof design can help you achieve this. You even have the space to install a dormer window on the steeper slope, allowing natural lighting into your attic.

Another advantage of this roof shape is the ability to expand or add to your current house layout. The mansard truss is already designed with expansion in mind, and it can continue to withhold your roof should you decide to expand your home. If you intend to expand your home in the future, a mansard roof may be a better investment. It’s also a bonus if you live in a rural or urban area, as this makes expansion projects easier.

Mansard roofs, when installed correctly, can be very appealing and open the door to expansion and other projects. However, mansard roofs aren’t always the best choice when installing a new roof. First, the cost of this roof shape is very high. The higher cost comes from the complex and unusual design of the roof, which isn’t very common. In fact, some homeowners previously used hip and gable roofs combined in order to save money over a mansard roof.

If you experience heavy snowfall yearly, you might want to consider a different roof shape. It’s also worth noting that mansard roofs aren’t as resistant to severe weather as other options. This is because heavy snowfall and rain can cause damage to a mansard, including a collapse in extreme cases. Not only that, but mansard roof repairs are very costly, and because this design is uncommon, not many roofers will know the best way to resolve the problem.

Shed Roof

A shed roof, also known as a mono-pitch roof or skillion roof, uses a single sloped, flat surface angled in one direction. This type of roof resembles half of a gable roof, and while these are typically used for porches and other additions to the home, these can be installed on more modern, minimal homes. Most skillion roof pitches are quite low, mainly intended to allow water to run off the roof. Shed roofs allow for unique customizability, as this is an uncommon type of roof for housing.

As you may expect, shed roofs have the most optimal method of draining water, snow, and debris from the roof, preventing it from accumulating in one spot. Because of their simplistic design, single-slope roofs are easy to build and affordable due to the smaller amount of equipment needed. This is good news for homeowners looking for something modern or minimal. Speaking of modern, skylights and solar panels can be easily installed on this roof shape compared to other designs.

As you may expect, skillion roofs come with some caveats. The main concern for skillion-roof houses is the lack of attic space. Because the pitch is very low, you’ll have less storage space in your attic, which may be an issue depending on you and your family. Also, like most other roofs, high winds can be problematic for this roof shape. Shed roofs are a single surface, which means they’re prone to wind damage, especially if hurricanes or other similar storms are frequent.

Uncommon roof styles

There are several other shapes of roofs available should any of the above not suit your needs or desires. However, these aren’t as common for various reasons. Here are seven other roofing options to consider if you’re looking for something different.

A-Frame Roof

This shape resembles the letter “A,” meaning it uses two steep sloped sides that meet at the peak. This design is typically used for cabins but has also been utilized in other modern architecture.

A-frame roofs are great at resisting harsh weather, including high winds and pouring rain. Their steep slopes allow for easy drainage, and because of their construction, they can last longer against the elements compared to other roofs. In fact, the design is simple enough to where some homeowners take it upon themselves to build a new roof in this shape.

As previously mentioned, A-frame roofs aren’t as common as other designs, mainly due to their arguably awkward design. Because of the roof’s angles, this can reduce the amount of usable square feet in your home. Another point to consider is how heat rises, meaning your home’s heat won’t be evenly distributed, leading to your upstairs or attic being warmer than everything below. It might be more difficult to heat your home with an A-frame roof, but it is still possible with efficient insulation.

Saltbox Roof

This roof shape is essentially a gable roof with two asymmetrical slopes, one longer than the other. It’s reasonable to assume that the pros and cons of this shape are the same as a gable roof, and while this is mostly the case, there are a couple of differences to keep in mind.

While the design of the saltbox roof is easier to maintain and stronger against rain and snow, the irregular design causes there to be an indoor slope, which can affect attic space. It’s important to decide if you want a low ceiling or an angled ceiling, and if attic space for storage is important to you, a saltbox roof might interfere with that.

Bonnet Roof

Bonnet roofs have four sides, and each is hipped with a small slope at the bottom. This style of roof is mainly used in homes with large wrap-around porches or pool houses. Historically, bonnet roofs were mainly used for ranch houses, cottages, and other similar structures. These roofs contain an overhang, providing plenty of shade and siding protection.

The design also allows for a decent amount of attic space due to the high pitch. Bonnet roofs perform well against strong winds and heavy rain, and the slopes allow for easy drainage.

One important factor to consider is the cost. Bonnet roofs require more trusses to hold up, and these can be costly. However, if you have the finances for this style of roof, bonnet roofs are a great option for many situations. Be sure to have your roof regularly inspected to prevent leaks or other problems.

Monitor Roof

Monitor roofs contain a “second” roof above a ridge, and this runs parallel to the main roof. The taller part of the roof creates a space that allows natural lighting and ventilation to enter your home. These usually contain windows, blinds, or shutters, which is why this style of roof is considered the monitor roof.

Monitor roofs are usually constructed for farmhouses or industrial buildings and were previously used for railroad cars. These roofs make use of insulated glass and sealants to protect against the weather, preventing leaks and saving energy. It’s uncommon to see this style of roof on residential homes, as it is mainly used for buildings that require natural lighting and saving money on other solutions. While not a common style of roofing for homes, the use of this roof shape has existed for hundreds of years, and it continues to be effective in certain businesses.

Butterfly or V-Roof

Appropriately named, a V-roof, sometimes called a butterfly roof, uses a “V” design, with the slopes pointing upwards. Rather than having the slopes point down to allow water and debris to drain, the slopes point upwards while the middle points down. That’s not to say that there is no way to remove the water, however. The middle of these roofs contains a downspout that allows for debris and water to flow freely off the roof, rather than accumulate in the center.

One advantage of these roofs is the ability to create the “V” shape as high or low as you like. This design also allows for higher walls on each side of the house, meaning you’ll have more space for windows if you prefer natural lighting. Because of the downspouts in the center, this design avoids the need for gutters, which can save money long-term.

This design is considered more modern than other designs, despite being around since the 19th century. With that said, it’s important to keep this roof style properly maintained. While there are solutions for heavy rainfall and other debris, sometimes this can all accumulate in the middle anyway, requiring a fix as soon as possible. It also requires more people and money to install, but with the right company, this can be taken care of efficiently.

Arched Roof

As you may expect, an arched roof is designed in a curved shape pointing down. Arched roofs are frequently used for barns, warehouses, and other very large buildings. Other names for this style of roof include curved, rainbow, or Gothic arch roofs.

Construction workers enjoy building these roofs due to their simplistic nature and easy building requirements. Because of their simple design, arched roofs have several customizable features and can either be load-bearing or self-supporting. The size can range from small to very large, and an architect can help determine how large the roof needs to be to match your home or building. These can also be framed in multiple different ways, which an architect can also help you determine. Arched roofs also require less maintenance than other designs, as they tend to be wind-resistant and rarely require repairs.

Before going through with an arched roof project, be sure your budget allows for it. Roofing projects aren’t cheap, but arched roofs may require a decent amount of money if you need a large roof. It’s also recommended to take your time and carefully plan out the design of the roof, as these roofs must be efficient and effective in keeping everyone safe from the outside elements.

Domed Roof

Not to be confused with domed homes, a domed roof uses a semi-circle design that spans the entire roof. Sometimes, the apex of the roof contains a circular opening. When constructed accordingly, these roofs perform well against heavy winds and are also incredibly energy efficient.

Domed roofs have existed for hundreds of years due to their simple design and remarkable effectiveness against harsh weather. This design is also symmetrical, which boosts curb appeal. While maintenance for domed roofs is possible, it’s more difficult to perform due to their curved design. The right team with an appropriate set of skills is needed should a domed roof cause any issues.

Sawtooth Roof

While an uncommon design for homes, this design has slowly become more popular. These roof shapes can be seen across residential and industrial buildings, and the design itself comes with many advantages.

This design consists of a series of ridges with multiple pitches resembling a saw’s teeth. The primary reason this design was created was to allow more natural lighting into the area while minimizing excess heat. Commercial and industrial buildings use this roof design more often than residential buildings, and this design is great for environmental efficiency.

While sawtooth roofs can be expensive to build and require a fair amount of maintenance, they come with advantages that can’t be overlooked. Because of the high ceilings, there is more space for storage. Not only do sawtooth roofs allow more natural lighting, but you can also implement solar panels and other energy-saving tools as well. This design is also great for anyone looking to modernize their building or home. Depending on the materials used to construct the roof, these can last for several decades.

Which roof is best for me?

If you’re looking for repairs or a new roof entirely, you may wonder which roof shape is best. There is no one best roof style, as each comes with its own qualities that set them apart. While there are several different roof types, some are more common than others, and each comes with its own pros and cons.

For example, if you want something simple that can withstand rain and snow, a hip roof will do nicely. If you want to conserve energy and go for something more modern, a skillion roof may be a better option for you. There are a lot of designs to consider, and you might have further questions about specific ones. If you need help from a professional roofing company with decades of experience, the experts at Mr. Roof are available.

Hire a trusted local roofing company

For over 60 years, our experts at Mr. Roof have used their knowledge and skills to deliver the best services possible. We understand how important your roof is, whether you’re at home or on the job. Roofs are responsible for keeping everyone safe from harsh weather, and it’s crucial that these are constructed properly and efficiently. If you live near a local Mr. Roof, we can help.

We offer a wide range of shingles and roofing systems to keep you protected and satisfied with your building’s appearance. We’ll work with you to ensure we create an estimate that’s fair and caters to your needs. If you have any questions about your project or are unsure what you want, our experts will be happy to address any questions or concerns you have.

For all your roofing and exterior renovation needs, contact us today at Mr. Roof to receive a free estimate.